My kind of town
The Windy City is a popular spot for those looking to get away for an ultimate girls' weekend-and rightfully so. The second best city in the Midwest (wink, wink) is packed with stellar shopping, fantastic restaurants, myriad cultural opportunities and places aplenty to just relax and enjoy. Here's our guide to the ultimate Chicago escape.
You'll probably make a beeline for the Magnificent Mile, and rightfully so. This stretch of Michigan Avenue offers hundreds of shops, anchored by three huge malls. Whether you're looking for bargains at H&M or the newest Louis Vuitton bag, you'll find it on this dozen-block stretch of shopping paradise. Don't miss the vast Nordstrom shoe department (520 N. Michigan), or famed British trendsetter Topshop, which is set to open in the fall (830 N. Michigan).
But serious fashionistas will want to escape the crowds. Hit up Blake, a gallery-like space offering the newest and most expertly chosen pieces from designers like Marni, Balenciaga, Dries van Noten, and Giambattista Valli (212 W. Chicago Ave.).
Just around the corner from Blake is Elements, a shop offering unique jewelry and home furnishings (741 N. Wells St., ElementsChicago.com). You can pick up everything from fun earrings or bangles to a Beirn watersnake handbag.
P.O.S.H. is a necessary stop for the home-decor obsessed (613 N. State St., PoshChicago.com). This cozy shop specializes in vintage goods like hotel silver and china, and flea market finds from France. It's nearly impossible to leave without at least one little trinket.
And of course there's Chicago's famed Oak Street. Just off the northern part of Michigan Avenue, it's no secret that this quiet street is home to stores like Prada, Hermes and Jimmy Choo. But there have been a couple newcomers over the past year, like Vince, with its iconic classics (106 E. Oak St.), and Moncler, which boasts high-end Italian outerwear (33 E. Oak St.).
The hands-down best place for a relaxing lunch is Terzo Piano, inside the Art Institute building (159 E. Monroe St.). Chef Tony Mantuano of Spiaggia offers up a frequently changing menu of delicious, seasonal dishes featuring local ingredients. You can't go wrong with any of their beautiful salads-featuring ingredients like house-made ricotta, persimmons and prosciutto-or the lamb burger with goat cheese and onion jam. Don't miss their specialty cocktails and house-made sodas.
For dinner, don't be afraid to stray from the well-known classics. Piccolo Sogno in the West Loop offers tasty authentic Italian food and an impressive all-Italian wine list (464 N. Halsted St.). The burrata (amped-up buffalo mozzarella) appetizer is heavenly, and the pizzas cooked in their wood-fired oven are perfectly thin and crispy. All the pastas are house-made and mixed with a variety of ingredients, like the black spaghetti with "frutti di mare." Reservations recommended.
Chicago offers a variety of tours that are anything but the typical ride-around-on-a-bus experience. The city is famous for its awe-inspiring architecture, and the Chicago Architecture Foundation's river cruise is an absolute must (CAF.Architecture.org/Tours). The 90-minute boat ride on the Chicago river takes you past the city's most famous buildings like the Willis Tour, Merchandise Mart, Marina City and more.
In the same vein, the Chicago Architecture Foundation also offers tours of Frank Lloyd Wright buildings throughout the area (CAF.Architecture.org/Tours). There are two options. The "neighborhoods" bus tour takes you past more than 25 homes designed by Wright in Oak Park and River Forest. "Frank Lloyd Wright by bus" concentrates on Oak Park and includes an interior tour of the Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio.
If you're looking to satisfy your sweet tooth, there's a tour for that, too. Chicago Chocolate Tours offers several ways to get your chocolate fix, like the Mag Mile and Gold Coast tour that takes you past More Cupcakes and Sarah's Pastries and Candies (ChicagoChocolateTours.com). The group's newest offering is the Cupcake Tour, with two route options-Loop or Gold Coast.